Parents fear loss of Mowbray fees

PARENTS from the collapsed Mowbray College fear they will never receive refunds for fees paid in advance, with some families owed thousands of dollars.

The school was placed into liquidation after a second meeting with creditors yesterday. Administrator Jim Downey said liquidation was the only realistic option because the western suburbs school was insolvent and no longer trading.

''The extent of the college's insolvency, the poor environment created by the progressive departure of students and staff and the cessation of support services are just some reasons the college cannot continue to operate,'' Mr Downey said.

Mowbray parents told The Age they received a letter from the administration firm this week demanding they pay outstanding school fees.

Debra Brown, whose six-year-old daughter Madison attended Mowbray, said parents could lose a family deposit of up to $1800.

She said the deposit was to be refunded once the last child in the family left the school. ''I paid $900 and I know I won't be getting that back,'' she said. ''I think a lot of parents are frustrated by the letter asking for outstanding fees.''

Ms Brown said other parents had also paid school fees in advance but it was unclear whether they would be refunded. She said a small group of parents would make one final attempt to resurrect the school, at an estimated cost of $4 million. They would seek sponsorships from businesses to operate the school.

Ms Brown said the college's closure was a blow to the community because there was a shortage of independent schools in the area. The college, which included three campuses, closed in early June.

Natalie Murphy had to find another school for her daughter who was enrolled in prep at Mowbray. Ms Murphy, a former Mowbray student herself, said the college owed her more than $1000.

She believes other parents were owed much larger sums. ''They're never going to get it back. It's just about accountability now,'' she said.

Teachers will be able to access their redundancy entitlements through a federal government scheme, Mr Downey said.

Last month he told ABC 774 that the school had $2 million in outstanding fees and a payroll of $500,000 a fortnight.

The kindergarten at the Brookside campus in Caroline Springs will re-open next term. Mr Downey said an ''external party'' had offered to operate the kindergarten.

Yesterday the college's website remained active, advertising tours in coming months.

b.preiss@theage.com.au

The story Parents fear loss of Mowbray fees first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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